When the Denver Nuggets traded Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks, they got a healthy return of capable, skilled players and assets. When the two situations were compared during last year’s lockout shortened season, it appeared fated that Carmelo would be saddled with a dysfunctional environment, mismatched personnel while Denver would allow Ty Lawson to run wild (and be his L-awesome self).
This year, in a post-Linsanity New York and after Denver succumbed to playoff pressure and inexperience, the Nuggets won the Andre Iguodala sweepstakes – somehow getting even more athletic and versatile, while ‘Melo rides the New York superlatives into inevitable MVP discussion.
Yet Denver struggled out of the gate with ugly losses to Orlando and Phoenix, the Manimal, Kenneth Faried struggled to get more than 20 minutes playing time, and Ty Lawson let his playoff struggles carry over into the new season.
The Nuggets have begun to right the ship, rattling off an impressive 4-game winning streak over Memphis, Minnesota, Golden State and New Orleans before losing 3 straight to Utah, Golden State and the Lakers.
They’ve been at .500 since, taking care of the bad teams (Toronto, Indiana, Detroit), while losing to the good ones (Atlanta, New York).
They have had the 5th toughest schedule in the league, so far, and will be playing the second night of a back-to-back against a Wolves squad that has had 5 days of rest since their blowout win over Cleveland.
Nuggets probable starting lineup:
PG Ty Lawson
SG Andre Iguodala
SF Danilo Gallinari
PF Kenneth Faried
C Kosta Koufos
Lawson has begun to show signs of life for awhile now. He’s been shooting 48% from the field over his last five, but threw up a 1-10 performance in the Nuggets win last Friday in Indianapolis.
During the Nuggets last game at Target Center, Koufos blocked a Kevin Love shot, Love took issue, and their skirmish rewarded Love with a technical foul that may or may not have proven the moment that turned the tide in a 101-94 Nugget win that spoiled Love’s first game of the season and a 34-point, 14-rebound debut.
Wolves probable starting lineup:
PG Luke Ridnour
SG Malcolm Lee
SF Andrei Kirilenko
PF Kevin Love
C Nikola Pekovic
Ricky Rubio shall remain inactive tonight. As Ricky-watch drags on, Ridnour remains in the starting lineup. Shooting 52% from the field over his last 5, Ridnour has brought the offense to combat some of what he gives up to his alwaysl-quicker, always threatening opponent on defense.
Alexey Shved and Andrei Kirilenko have garnered deserved attention for their contributions to the Wolves resurgence this year, playmaking and defense foremost amongst Kirilenko’s. AK47 had 6 assists in his return to the lineup against Cleveland, to go with 3 blocks and 4 steals. Shved is growing more accustomed to the NBA 3, over his last 5 averaging 46%.
Tonight, Love could get revenge or booed. The comments made in Adrian Wojnarowski’s Yahoo! Sports article couldn’t have stranger timing. The Wolves have won 5 of their last 6, have Rubio waiting in the wings, and the team is about to embark on a markedly tougher portion of their schedule. It will be interesting to see how the team and the home crowd respond.